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The Miracle of Cities

I finally got a chance to listen to the Cities episode of WNYC's Radiolab. It's an excellent program, especially for those of us that love urban places. If you have an hour of free time, it's worth a listen.

I particularly like the second segment of the show 'The Belly of the Beast" which delves into some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of how cities are built and how they work.

(from Logan Hicks on Flickr)

Last winter I read The Works by Kate Ascher. Even though it's more of a coffee table reference book than something you would read on an airplane, the author does an amazing job explaining how every piece of city infrastructure works, from tap water to electrical wires to subways to street sweepers. The descriptions are easy to digest and the graphics are beautiful.

One thing I took away from The Works is how badly most of us take cities and urban infrastructure for granted. Every day and every week we wake up and expect everything to work, and we get upset even when minor problems occur. But given how much truly goes into making a city run, to me it's actually something of a miracle that things work with the precision and the efficiency that they do.

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